- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
- It mainly affects women.
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease “by push”, that is to say that the patients experience the manifestation of one or more symptoms for one or two days after a period of calm, and so on.
“Sword of Damocles”
How common are these flare-ups? “It’s a question that patients often ask us, but that we don’t know how to answer. On average, it’s one flare-up per year, but it’s a statistical figure that doesn’t make sense on the scale. Some patients have three relapses in 12 months, others one relapse every four years”, explains Jérôme de Sèze, professor of neurology at the Strasbourg University Hospital and specialist in autoimmune diseases and neuro-ophthalmology. “Unfortunately, we cannot know this in advance. So patients often complain of having a Damocles sword hanging over their heads when they get up in the morning. But on the outbreak itself, it’s still quite rare to have 24 or 48 hours of continuous symptoms”, reassures the specialist.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35. 120,000 people in France are now affected, and 3,000,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Improve living comfort
“Multiple sclerosis is not a hereditary disease in the genetic sense of the term, that is to say that we do not know the gene for multiple sclerosis, we have only associated genes for inflammation with development of the disease. What we know is that the risk of transmitting multiple sclerosis to one’s children is less than 5%”, adds Jérôme de Sèze.
“Multiple sclerosis is a disease with serious connotations. It is true that when this diagnosis is announced, either the patients do not know, or they immediately see the handicap, the cane and the wheelchair”, further details Jérôme de Sèze. “That said, it is a disease whose prognosis has completely changed in 20 years thanks in particular to the arrival of new ultra-early and increasingly effective therapies, which improve the comfort of life”, he continues.
Three major symptoms
The three major symptoms that appear at the onset of multiple sclerosis are:
– loss of sight in one eye, with veiling and pain behind the eye socket that lasts for several days.
– Sensitive disorders, such as a lack of sensation, tingling or burning sensations which also last several days.
– Motor problems, such as a dragging leg or a problem with balance.
“The notion of the duration of these manifestations, that is to say more than 24 hours, is what makes the difference with a stroke, an epileptic attack or a migraine for example”, concludes Jérôme de Sèze.